We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A humbling must come to pass

It is rarely that I agree so strongly with a fervent supporter of the European Union. Nesrine Malik of the Guardian argues that “the Brexit reckoning must happen” on the grounds that

A humbling must come to pass. From the beginning, Brexit created its own momentum. Once the question was asked – in or out? – all the grievances, justified or not, could be projected on it, with “in” being widely seen as a vote for the status quo. Within this frame, nothing else matters – not economic predictions, not warnings about medicines running out, nor threats of the need to stockpile foods. The remain campaign could not have done anything differently: it lost the moment the question was asked.

And so, maybe, in the end, we will finally believe that immigration is necessary for an economy and an NHS to function, that the inequality between the south-east and the rest of Britain is unsustainable, that our political class is over-pedigreed and under-principled. We might even believe that other crises, such as climate change, are real, too.

Maybe, in the end, the country outside Europe will find its stride by confronting its issues rather than blaming them on others, and forging its own way. But there is only one way to find out. What a shame Brexit is that path – but better to have a path than none at all.

She is right about our political class being over-pedigreed and under-principled, right that unless Brexit happens the country will be torn apart by claim and counter-claim as to what would have happened, and right that a humbling must come to pass. Let us go forward together and find out whose.

Samizdata quote of the day

“A termite has about 100,000 neurons and we probably get through that number over a big weekend.”

John Searle, American philosopher.

Samizdata quote of the day

I have never been a great Trump fan, but I am in awe of how he drives his enemies insane. And I am not speaking figuratively, I mean literally insane, batshit moonbat loonytoons crazy. Trump Derangement Syndrome is to Bush Derangement Syndrome as Pneumonic Plague is to a Common Cold.

– Perry de Havilland, as part of an on-line discussion elsewhere about ‘Out‘, a homosexual advocacy publication slamming Trump for pressuring Iran to decriminalise homosexuality. Yes, seriously.

A question for the seven MPs who have quit Labour

Those people who voted for you a couple of years ago thought they were electing Labour MPs. Given that things have turned out differently, and that your opposition to Brexit was a major motivation for your departure, should not each of you be confirming that you still have the people’s mandate by submitting to a People’s Vote, sorry, by-election?

A book right out of the R. A. Heinlein tradition

Gregory Benford has a new book out, called Rewrite, and while I tend sometimes to be careful of pre-publication hype, this looks mighty promising and a good way for me to while away the hours as I fly to Hong Kong in a few days’ time. The author gets an interview in Wired magazine, proof that good things occasionally do appear in that publication, despite what appears to be its turn to eco-lefist nonsense in recent years.

I really enjoyed his novel, Timescape. Chiller, a book that features cryonics, is also good.

By the way, there is a Robert Heinlein Society, which runs a scholarship programme. I think the writer, former Navy officer, fencing expert and blood donor advocate would have approved.

Heinlein once wrote about The Crazy Years, a period in his early writings known as the Future History series. I am not the first person to wonder if our own era deserves that moniker, although with hindsight is it any nuttier than any other?

Samizdata quote of the day

“Corbyn’s first wife, Jane Chapman, told his biographer Tom Bower that she never knew him read a book in four years of marriage.”

Nick Cohen.

The constant denial that humans possess agency

Following on from the posting below about the “ISIS bride” is this comment from Brendan O’Neill at Spiked:

Indeed, the story of these three London girls who ran off in 2015 was always a very telling one. It contains lessons, if only we are willing to see them. Too many observers have focused on the girls’ youthfulness and the idea that they were ‘groomed’ or ‘brainwashed’ by online jihadists. Note how ‘radicalisation’ has become an entirely passive phrase – these girls, and other Brits, were ‘radicalised’, we are always told, as if they are unwitting dupes who were mentally poisoned by sinister internet-users in Mosul or Raqqa. In truth, the three girls were resourceful and bright. All were grade-A students. They thought their actions through, they planned them meticulously, and they executed them well. Far from being the passive victims of online radicalisation, the girls themselves sought to convince other young women to run away to ISIS territory. The focus on the ‘grooming’ of Western European youths by evil ISIS masterminds overlooks a more terrible reality: that some Western European youths, Muslim ones, actively sought out the ISIS life.

A point that comes out of this is how it is so common these days to downplay the fact that people make choices and have agency. Whether it is about young adults joining Islamist death cults, or people becoming addicted to drink, porn or social media, or falling into some other self-destructive and anti-social behaviour, very often people talk about the persons concerned as passive, as victims. “She was groomed to be a terrorist”…..”he suffered from alcoholism”…..”he was damaged by over-use of social media”……the very way that journalists write sentences or broadcast their thoughts seem to suggest that people don’t really possess volition, aka free will. (Here is a good explanation of what free will is, at least in the sense that I think it is best formulated, by the late Nathaniel Branden.)

Sometimes debates about whether humans really do have volition can sound like hair-splitting, an obscure sort of issue far less important than other matters of the day. I disagree. For decades, centuries even, different arguments have been presented to show that humans are pushed around by whatever external or internal forces happen to be in play, whether it is the environment, toilet training, parental guidance, economics, the class system, whatever. Over time, these ideas percolate into wider society so that it becomes acceptable for people to talk as if their very thoughts and actions aren’t really under their control. The self-contradictory nature of people denying that they have volition (to deny is, after all, a decision) is rarely remarked upon.

When people think about the problem of “snowflake” students, or identity politics, or other such things, remember that these phenomena didn’t come out of nowhere. We are seeing the “cashing in”, as Ayn Rand put it almost half a century ago, of the idea that people are not agents with will, but mere puppets.

Update: A lively debate in the comments. There is some pushback on the idea that the ISIS bride sees herself as any sort of victim but I think that charge is correct because of the entitlement mentality she is displaying by demanding that she returns to the UK to have her child, and no doubt fall on the grace of the UK taxpayer. And that mindset is all of a piece of thinking that actions don’t bring consequences.

After all, if she is the devout believer in creating a Global Caliphate, based on killing and enslaving unbelievers and all the assorted mindfuckery of such a goal, it is a bit rich, really, for her to come back to a country the prosperity of which is based on it being a largely liberal, secular place. She wants to have her cake and eat it.

Of course, some young jihadis can be brainwashed and are surrounded by a culture that encourages such behaviour, but it is worth pointing out that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who, whatever the pressures, don’t do these things, and some are trying their best to move away from this mindset. And one of the best ways that liberal (to use that word in its correct sense) societies can resist the pathology of Islamist death cults is by resisting the “victim culture” and insisting on people taking ownership of their actions, with all the consequences for good or ill that this brings.

As an aside, here is an interesting essay by a Canadian academic debunking what might be called “apocalyptic ethics” and a rebuttal of the argument that as religious fanatics embrace death, they are beyond the rational self interest test of ethics. The article deals with that argument beautifully.

Discussion point: the fate of the ISIS bride

What do you think should be done with her?

Former MI6 director says schoolgirl who joined Isis should be ‘given a chance’

Although Shamima Begum has shown no remorse, Richard Barrett says Britain should be strong enough to reabsorb her

A pregnant British teenager who fled to Syria with two schoolfriends to marry an Islamic State fighter should be “given a chance” and allowed to come home, a former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6 has said.

Describing Shamima Begum as “a 15-year-old who went badly off the rails”, Richard Barrett said British society should be strong enough to reabsorb her, despite her lack of contrition. By contrast, he said the immediate reaction of the British government “has been a complete lack of concern for her plight”.

Begum fled her home in Bethnal Green, east London, with two schoolfriends to join Isis fighters in Syria in 2015. Interviewed this week in a refugee camp in the north of the country after fleeing Isis’s last stronghold, she told the Times that she was nine months pregnant and had fled the fighting after her two other children had died. “I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child,” she said.

Those words do get my sympathy. The next ones, less so:

She did not regret going to Syria, she told the newspaper, and expressed support for the murder of journalists, whom she said had been “a security threat for the caliphate”. Seeing a severed head in a bin “didn’t faze me at all”, she said, adding that her husband had surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters.

The response demonstrates why it needed to happen

The launch of Turning Point UK felt to me like an important moment.

Douglas Murray agrees:

Earlier this week I made the usual mistake of looking at Twitter and saw that ‘Turning Point’ was trending. This is unusual in Britain. Turning Point is a very successful organisation set up in the US to counter the dominance of left-wing views on campus. It turned out to be trending because of the launch of Turning Point UK this week. In essence the response to the launch of Turning Point demonstrated the need to launch Turning Point in the UK.

This is also how I now feel about the Brexit vote. The response to that also explains why it needed to happen.

You say that like it’s a bad thing, Mr Soros

The EU could collapse in the same way the Soviet Union did, George Soros warns

Back in 1991/92, when the Soviet Union had just collapsed and the UKIP party had just formed to fight the “ever-closer-union” Maastricht Treaty, one of their posters was two pictures of the map of Europe, one captioned ‘Before’ and the other ‘After’. ‘Before’ showed Western Europe divided into many separate countries while the east was the single monolith of communism. ‘After’ showed Eastern Europe divided into many separate countries while the west was the single monolith of the EU.

In Britain, this comparison was used as an argument against the EU but Mr Soros evidently sees it differently. He

has issued a call for Europe to “please wake up” and recognize “the magnitude of the threat” it faces.

Otherwise

“the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991.”

Mr Soros blames

“the lack of legal tools for disciplining member states”

Also attracting his ire is “the outdated party system that prevails in most European countries” (I do not recall this being a problem in the old Soviet bloc), and the fact that changing the treaties that define the EU is too difficult. He also thinks the EU should not have required migrants to register in the first EU country they reached, instead of moving them on over the continent, because that made local electorates more aware of their numbers.

However Mr Soros believes all will yet be well if the Eurocrats

“awaken the sleeping pro-European majority”

Good luck with that.

Samizdata quote of the day

“With journalism’s popularity waning and scandals raging, journalists have never been more interested in the political opinions of `stars.’ While the idea of a reporter caring what they think about matters beyond what it was like to work with some other actor or director, this wading by the make-believe set has begun to impact its bottom lines. `Stars’ are asked to weigh in, to speak out on everything, and fewer and fewer people want to hear it. It’s a business model straight out of a Monty Python skit.”

Derek Hunter, Outrage Inc: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism and Hollywood. Page 209.

(As per usual I put in my bleat about how sad it is that the word “liberal” nowadays means something rather different than what it once did.)

Meanwhile in other news…

The end of the world is imminent. The Guardian Observer reports,

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

Obviously my first thought was “Okaaay, tev. I will believe you believe it if it still keeps Brexit off the front page for, say, the rest of this week.” But given the stakes one should keep an open mind. You guys think there’s anything to this?